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Sol Lesser

Sol Lesser
Sol Lesser.jpg
Sol Lesser ca. 1920
Born(1890-02-17)February 17, 1890
DiedSeptember 19, 1980(1980-09-19) (aged 90)
Resting placeHillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1913–1958
SpouseFay Grunauer Lesser (1913–?) (2 children)[1]
ChildrenJulian Lesser (1915–2005)[2]
Marjorie Lesser Fasman

Sol Lesser (February 17, 1890 – September 19, 1980) was an American film producer. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1961.


In 1913, while living in San Francisco, Sol Lesser learned that the authorities were about to clean out the Barbary Coast district, a raucous area of gambling houses, saloons and brothels. He grabbed a camera and a friend, future Hollywood cameraman Hal Mohr, and roamed the area, especially the parts that were best-known before the area was shut down. (The Barbary Coast was not actually closed down until 1917.) This film is now considered a lost film.

The resulting film was The Last Night of the Barbary Coast, an early example of an exploitation film that was sold directly to movie theater owners by Lesser. With the profits from the film, he bought several theaters, and soon owned a cinema chain.

Sol Lesser signed Jackie Coogan to a movie contract in 1922, establishing both as major Hollywood names. The Coogan-Lesser hits included Oliver Twist and Peck's Bad Boy. Lesser made a successful transition to sound films, with his own Principal Pictures company; he would either distribute his productions himself under the Principal name, or arrange for a major studio to release them under their own trademarks. In 1933, Lesser produced Thunder Over Mexico a compilation film made from Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico! with the permission of Upton Sinclair, who had commissioned the Soviet film maker, and his wife.

His productions usually had higher budgets than the usual independent features; Lesser was able to produce entire series with name stars like Bela Lugosi, George O'Brien, and Bobby Breen.

In 1933 Lesser succeeded in buying screen rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan character. A Tarzan the Fearless serial with screen newcomer Buster Crabbe resulted, but Burroughs, deciding to make his own Tarzan films, refused to renegotiate with Lesser. Burroughs's movie enterprises were short-lived, and the rights passed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Burroughs sold Lesser options on all his Tarzan novels for seven years with Lesser producing one Tarzan film a year for 20th Century Fox. Only one Tarzan film Tarzan's Revenge featuring athletes Glenn Morris and Eleanor Holm was produced; Lesser sold the rights back to MGM.[3] He returned to the Tarzan property in 1943, after MGM relinquished the rights. Lesser's new Tarzan films were produced for RKO and starred Johnny Weissmuller and later Lex Barker and Gordon Scott, and Lesser devoted himself to these jungle adventures for the rest of his career.

Later films include Our Town (1940) and the all-star wartime revue Stage Door Canteen (1943) that featured a cameo by Johnny Weissmuller. Toward the end of his life he was actively involved in restoring many of his early productions.

Lesser retired in 1958, selling the Tarzan rights to producer Sy Weintraub.[4] "I had reached the age that one either finishes on top or far below. I decided I would end on top, and I was satisfied," he said.

Lesser was buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.


Sol Lesser was the recipient of The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1960. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Ad for What Women Love (1920)
Poster for My Boy (1922)
Lobby card for Ferocious Pal (1934)
Lobby card for Hawaii Calls (1938)
Poster for Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Year Title Notes
1920 What Women Love [5]
1921 One Man in a Million [6]
1922 My Boy [5]
1922 The World's a Stage
1922 Oliver Twist [5]
1922 Trouble [5]
1922 Bing Bang Boom [6]
1923 Circus Days [5]
1923 Daddy [5]
1923 The Drug Traffic [5]
1924 Captain January [5]
1924 Helen's Babies [5]
1924 The Mine with the Iron Door [6]
1924 When a Man's a Man [5]
1925 The Re-Creation of Brian Kent [5]
1925 Balto's Race to Nome [5]
1930 The Eyes of the World [5]
1932 South Sea Adventures [5]
1932 With Williamson Beneath the Sea [5]
1932 The Amazon Head Hunters [5]
1933 Jaws of Justice [5]
1933 Matto-Grosso [5]
1933 Thunder Over Mexico [5]
1933 Tarzan the Fearless Serial[6]
1933 The Return of Chandu Serial[6]
1934 Peck's Bad Boy [5]
1934 Ferocious Pal [6]
1934 Fighting to Live [5]
1934 Chandu on the Magic Isle [5]
1934 The Dude Ranger [5]
1935 Hard Rock Harrigan [5]
1935 Thunder Mountain [5]
1935 Whispering Smith Speaks [5]
1935 When a Man's a Man [5]
1935 The Cowboy Millionaire [5]
1935 The Calling of Dan Matthews [5]
1936 Let's Sing Again [5]
1936 Rainbow on the River [5]
1936 O'Malley of the Mounted [5]
1937 The Californian [5]
1937 Make a Wish [5]
1937 Western Gold [5]
1937 Roll Along, Cowboy [5]
1937 Secret Valley [5]
1937 It Happened Out West [5]
1938 Breaking the Ice [5]
1938 Hawaii Calls [5]
1938 Rawhide [5]
1938 Tarzan's Revenge [5]
1938 Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus [5]
1938 Panamint's Bad Man [5]
1938 Hawaiian Buckaroo [5]
1939 Fisherman's Wharf [5]
1939 Way Down South [5]
1939 Everything's on Ice [5]
1939 Escape to Paradise [5]
1940 Our Town [5]
1941 That Uncertain Feeling [5]
1942 The Tuttles of Tahiti [5]
1943 Stage Door Canteen [5]
1943 Tarzan's Desert Mystery [5]
1943 Tarzan Triumphs [5]
1944 Three Is a Family [5]
1945 Tarzan and the Amazons [5]
1947 Tarzan and the Leopard Woman [5]
1947 The Red House [5]
1947 Tarzan and the Huntress [5]
1948 Tarzan and the Mermaids [5]
1949 Tarzan's Magic Fountain [5]
1950 Tarzan and the Slave Girl [5]
1950 Kon-Tiki Academy Award, Best Documentary Feature[5]
1951 Tarzan's Peril [5]
1952 Tarzan's Savage Fury [5]
1952 Under the Red Sea [5]
1952 Without Warning! [5]
1953 Tarzan and the She-Devil [5]
1953 Vice Squad [5]
1953 The 3D Follies [5]
1955 Quest for the Lost City [5]
1955 Tarzan's Hidden Jungle [5]
1957 Man on the Prowl [5]
1957 X the Unknown [5]
1958 Tarzan's Fight for Life [5]
1958 Tarzan and the Trappers TV pilot


  1. ^[user-generated source]
  2. ^ "Julian "Bud" Lesser Obituary (2005) Los Angeles Times".
  3. ^ p. 297 Taliaferro, John Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs the Creator of Tarzan Scribner Book Company 15 January 2002
  4. ^ p. 213 Fleming, E.J. Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours with Directions and the Full Stor yMcFarland; Second edition 30 September 2015
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx "Sol Lesser". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Sol Lesser Productions, Inc". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
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Sol Lesser
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